It is official: David Cameron’s renegotiations are over before they have even begun. Yesterday unelected European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker announced there will be no changes to EU Treaties whilst he is in office.
This means, according to Juncker, no treaty negotiations can even begin until November 2019 at the earliest, ruining our Prime Minister’s plans for any renegotiations before an In/Out referendum by the end of 2017.
Juncker’s motives are quite clear. By taking treaty changes off the agenda this is a deliberate revenge attack for Cameron’s attempt to block Juncker from taking office in June last year.
However, by seeking to humiliate the Prime Minister, Juncker has spitefully sabotaged his own goal of keeping Britain entangled within an EU hurtling towards full political integration.
Yesterday Martin Schulz waded in too. As President of the European Parliament and another arch-federalist he explained his own opposition to changes to EU treaties as a way to keep Britain in. He argued it would set a precedent by attempting to solve the Eurozone problems with a new treaty.
This is something he and all the other bureaucrats of Brussels are desperate to avoid. Schulz has also said it is a “relief” other Member State heads, such as France’s President Hollande, are turning against treaty change due to fear of referendums to ratify such changes in their home countries.
If EU treaties are altered, any new settlement must be put before the electorate of a number of EU Member States and all it would take is one country voting ‘the wrong way’ and the dreams of a United States of Europe will be scuppered.
With the main two planks of Cameron’s renegotiation strategy shattering, namely the right of national parliaments to veto EU policies and the removal of the principle of “ever closer union” from the EU treaties, the decent thing for Cameron to do would be to concede defeat and campaign for Britain to leave the EU.
This will never happen however.
Cameron is the most pro-integration Conservative Prime Minister since Ted Heath, the canny politician who manipulated us into joining the European project in 1973. Instead of admitting defeat, Cameron will play up the meaningless and minor reforms he is able to claw back from the EU and he will campaign to stay in.
The only reforms he is likely to win are changes to welfare entitlement for EU migrants, and this will do nothing to curb EU immigration and, more importantly, it will not alter our constitutional position in Europe in any significant way.
Of course for Outers this is all good news. We’ve known for years Britain’s relationship with the EU can only be fundamentally changed by withdrawing and negotiating a simple free trade agreement.
But now it is quite clear — Cameron’s renegotiation reforms have been sunk — and those voters sitting on the fence will flock to the Out camp, making Brexit far more likely.
Nonetheless, we must not count our chickens before they are hatched. Cameron will now be more desperate than ever to devise a way to keep Britain in the EU at all costs.
Tellingly, Nick Clegg has now refused to rule out an EU referendum if there was a Tory-Lib Dem coalition again. This means Cameron will be able to fix the terms of the referendum to benefit the In campaign — such as the wording of the question and the timing of the poll. Then he would blame the Lib Dems for “forcing him” to make these concessions.
This aside, Juncker’s revealing comments yesterday are a huge coup for the Out campaign. The more he and other unelected bureaucrats in Brussels make such arrogant statements, the more the Great British Public will vote to Get Britain Out in 2017.
This article was cross-posted here, with The Commentator.